Trip unites and empowers HOLA

Nine students traveled to Chicago for USHLI conference this past weekend

Accompanied by Spanish professor David Inczaukis, S.J., the above nine members of HOLA spent three days in Chicago at the USHLI conference.

Students representing the Hispanic Organization and LatinX Awareness (HOLA) club said “¡Adiós!” to the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI) on Sunday after a weekend of keynote speakers, workshops and seminars.

The group traveled to Chicago for the three day conference. The event included both professional and social experiences, such as a graduate school recruitment fair, a plethora of cultural foods and live music.

USHLI also featured several speakers, including the founder of the Institute, Hamilton composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, the first Latina surgeon general and several congresspeople.

Out of the approximated 6,000 total students in attendance, Xavier was represented by nine members of HOLA and faculty member David Inczaukis, S.J.

“It was necessary to be in a space with professional and like-minded people who are goal-oriented,” senior liberal arts major and HOLA Vice President Grant Russell said. “Representation matters, and it was good for this organization to be there to see what we could be.”

Many students who attended noted that the event was empowering and motivational.

“It was really nice to see Latino people in the positions of power that they’re in and hearing the background stories of how they got where they’re at,” Kamilly Lousado, a proudly Brazilian first-year exercise science major, said. “After the speakers left, you wanted to change the world.”

HOLA president Julian Razo noted that the Huerta Find Your Voice Workshop was the most motivational experience of USHLI for him.

“It made me think about and be grateful for what I have,” Razo said.

“Just seeing all those Latinos and being able to witness what they mean in the community and how they give back in the community was just inspirational.”

Students agreed that the trip also bonded them closer as a Xavier organization. Many noted that their daily reflections helped to create a safe space where they could voice their feelings together.

“Everyone opened up a little bit… There were happy and sad tears,” junior early childhood education major Katie Casablanca said. “I talked about my life and my hardships and my family… it really brought us together as people.”

“People spoke out in a space where we were able to share our ideas and know it was able to stay in that space,” Razo said of the reflection periods.

Additionally, attendees helped create a space for LatinX students to engage with non-White students outside of the predominantly White campus.

“At Xavier, a PWI (Predominantly White Institution), it is hard to find or seem as you fit in and so going to a conference of like-minded students from different students, meeting other students from different places was important,” senior international business major Alfredo Mercedes said. 

“It was an engaging event and it makes me want to tackle all the world issues and keep fighting,” he said.

Razo noted that the conference instilled in him a belief that Xavier should fund more groups to attend similar events.

“Xavier needs to start investing more in taking other ethnic groups to conferences and other identity groups to conferences so they can experience something outside of Xavier,” Razo said.

“I believe we’re in a bubble and getting exposure to other universities and experiences is really empowering.”